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I’m always on the hunt for good Thai food in northern Bergen County, and so far the best and most consistent meals that I’ve eaten have come from Pimaan Thai Restaurant in Emerson. Traditional Thai cuisine is known for its balance of five flavor profiles – hot, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter(sometimes). As much as I like Thai cuisine, I happen to not like hot and spicy foods, which are often associated with the different types of red and green Thai curries. I also happen to not like the curry spice (despite considering myself a foodie), but if that’s a key element that makes your palate crave Thai food, Pimaan Thai has an extensive selection of curries on their menu, all of which can be moderated per your prefence of heat.

Spiciness aside, I love the combination of sweet, sour, and salty, and Pimaan Thai Restaurant manages to achieve perfection with this triangle of flavors in many of their dishes. Perhaps the most common Thai dish is Pad Thai, and Pimaan’s Pad Thai is spectacular. They serve this dish with a lemmon wedge, which you must squeeze over your noodles before eating to tie in the sour element. I’ve had my fair share of Pad Thai over the years, but what keeps me ordering Pimaan’s version is the way the flavors don’t fully come through until your second or third bite. The flavor triangle that I love so much is mellow, which I find to be dangerously addicting. I always promise myself that I’ll leave a portion for leftovers, but then I end up eating the whole dish anyway.

Pimaan Thai also happens to have an incredible ginger sauce. Listed under the entrees section of the menu, you can order the ginger sauce with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, squid, scallops, or a mixed seafood comination. The ginger flavor is added to an oyster sauce base and cooked with mushrooms and scallions. You may be thinking to yourself that you can get this at the Chinese place around the corner, but wait until you try this dish. The ginger flavor is powerfully fresh, making a spicy-sweet explosion in your mouth. Unfortunately, Pimaan Thai does not serve their entrees with the traditional jasmine rice, but they do have the healthier brown rice option, which I prefer anyway.

I’ve found that many of the Thai restaurants around this part of the county don’t have Mee Krob on their menus. Well not only does Pimaan Thai have Mee Krob, but the portion is huge and it’s served to crispy, sticky perfection. As I said before, I’m not too keen on spicy foods, but I love Pimaan’s Tom Kha Gai soup. To me, this soup is the perfect culmination of the five flavor profiles. I also love the Thai Salad. You may be wondering why I would waste my money on a salad from a Thai restaurant, but once you taste the unique flavor of the peanut dressing, you’ll understand why.

Pimaan Thai Restaurant is located on Kinderkamack Road in Emerson, just north of the Oradell border. There is parking in the back, but drivers beware…the lot is very cramped and when the restaurant is busy (which is often) it’s difficult finding a spot yet alone maneuvering into one. Ironically, I have never eaten a sit-down meal at Pimaan Thai, but as a true testament to spectacular cuisine, the food is always fresh, hot, and tasty by the time I get home and dig in.

So whether you’re in the mood for take-out or you need to make dinner plans with friends, Pimaan Thai is the perfect place to get your Thai food fill. It’s conveniently located in the center of northern Bergen County, the menu is huge, and did I mention that it’s a BYOB? Try Pimaan out for yourself and you’ll see why I think this is the best Thai food around.

Here is the restaurant’s contact information:

79 Kinderkamack Road, Emerson

Tel: (201) 967-0440 or (201) 967-0545

And here is a copy of the menu:

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I was recently told a story (by my mom of all people) involving a young lady, Olive Garden, leftovers, and an STD. I don’t want to get into specifics because this particular story is rather grotesque, but I’ll let you use your imagination. After doing some Internet research, I determined that there’s a high likelihood of this story being an urban myth, but it got me thinking – why would anyone in Bergen County dine at the Olive Garden when we’re surrounded by so many authentic Italian restaurants?

I personally have always been a skeptic of the Olive Garden. I dined at the Ramsey location when it first opened and was very underwhelmed by my meal. I had the Sampler Italiano for my appetizer, and everything on that platter tasted like (and had the texture of) recently defrosted freezer food. For my entrée I had crab-stuffed ravioli, and while the menu said the ravioli was stuffed with lump crabmeat, it tasted exactly like crabmeat from a can. Needless to say, I haven’t dined at the Olive Garden since my unfortunate gastronomical experience that evening several summers ago.

If you find yourself in the mood for eggplant rollatini or veal bolognese, here are some of Bergen County’s real Italian restaurants:

  • Aldo’s in Wyckoff
  • Radicchio, La Piazza, and Marcellos in Ridgewood
  • Baci Italian Grill and The Mountain House in Westwood
  • Solaia and Café Italiano in Englewood
  • Paisano’s in Rutherford
  • Sorrento in East Rutherford

…and the list goes on. If you’re feeling adventurous, hop in your car and drive the 20 miles to Little Italy in New York, where you can enjoy some of the best and most authentic Italian cuisine on the East Coast!

So the next time you’re craving Italian, avoid the unlimited wilted salad, greasy breadsticks, and substandard entrees by patronizing one of Bergen County’s wonderful genuine Italian restaurants. Let’s leave those mediocre Olive Garden meals to the folks in the Midwest.

Located in the Northern Highlands region of Bergen County, Saddle River has the second highest per-capita income in the state and ranks as the 28th highest income places with at least 1,000 households in the United States. Set amidst rolling hills carved out by the Saddle River, this New York City suburb has long been a sought after location for wealthy celebrities and to this day, it still maintains its reputation as being one of the most affluent communities in the Tri-State Area.

Encompassing five square miles, Saddle River has several housing communities, none of which are gated. And while several of the town’s mansions and estates are set back from the road and/or are protected by tall hedges and tree canopies, most are visible while driving past. So if you’re bored one day and want to see where the stars make their home, consider this your Saddle River Map of the Stars:

Ja Rule, Lookout Drive

Located in the Chestnut Ridge estate area of Saddle River, Ja Rule lives in a rustic-looking mansion on the side of a steep hill. If you’re traveling north on Chestnut Ridge Road, you’ll want to turn right onto Normandy Drive (the first right after Twin Brooks Drive) and at the end, turn left onto Lookout Drive. Ja Rule’s house will be directly on the right. It has brown-shingled siding and a three car garage facing the road.

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Jason Kidd, Burning Hollow Road

Jason Kidd’s house is located in the Burning Hollow section of Saddle River, an estate area situated between Route 17 and the Allendale border. If you’re traveling on East Allendale Road heading west towards Allendale, once you go under the Route 17 overpass, you’ll turn left at the next light onto West Gate Road. Before the cul-de-sac, you’re going to turn right onto Burning Hollow Road, and Jason Kidd’s house will be the third on the right. Set behind a private entry gate, the house has a stone a stucco facade with a brownish gray roof.

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Mary J. Blige, East Saddle River Road

Mary J. Blige owns a new mansion on East Saddle River Road that backs up to the Saddle River. If you’re driving north on East Saddle River Road, her house is third on the left past Plymouth Lane. It’s a yellow stucco Normandy-style estate set behind a thick row of evergreens.

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Rev Run, Wildwood Road

Anyone who watches Run’s House on MTV knows that he lives in a large home in Saddle River. Located in the older section of the High Woods estates section, his house is a peach stucco Georgian colonial with white columns. To get there, you’ll want to be traveling north on West Saddle River Road. The main entrance to High Woods is on Eckert Farm Road, the first left after the convoluted East Allendale Road intersection (look for the hedges on the corners that have the words “High Woods” carved into them). Follow Eckert Farm Road to the end, where it curves around to the right and becomes North Wildwood Road. Make your first right onto Wildwood Road, and Rev Run’s house will be the second on the right. It’s very visible from the road, so if you watch the show, you can’t miss it!

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Russell Simmons, Fox Hedge Road

Before his divorce to Kimora Lee Simmons, Russell Simmons lived in a 10 bedroom mansion in the Fox Hedge section of Saddle River with Kimora and his two daughters, less than two minutes away from his brother’s home in High Woods. Currently, the 35,000 square foot estate is on the market for $20 million. To get there, you’ll want to take East Allendale Road heading east towards Woodcliff Lake. After passing East Saddle River Road on the left, Fox Hedge Road will be about one mile up the road on the left (you’ll want to make the second left onto Fox Hedge Road, not the first). The former Simmons’ estate is the third on the right on the bend. It is marked by two gated entrances with the letter “S” in the center of each. Behind the gates is a sprawling white estate with several turrets facing out towards the road.

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Wyclef Jean, Cameron Road

Wyclef Jean also lives in Burning Hollow and is an around-the-corner neighbor to Jason Kidd. If you’re on Burning Hollow Road and you pass Jason Kidd’s house, you’ll want to make the next right onto Cameron Road. Wyclef’s house will be the third on the left. It’s the white contemporary with several peaked roofs.

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If you’re ever on the east side of the county, check out the Alpine Map of the Stars for more celebrity estates.

Because of its proximity to New York City and its prime real estate, Bergen County is home to many celebrities. It’s not like L.A., where someone famous lives on just about every corner of every street, but we do have our fair share that live in some pretty spectacular homes.

Alpine has some of the wealthiest real estate in the country, with a 2007 median home sale price of $3.4 million! So naturally celebrities are going to live in this mansion-laden town, located a mere nine miles from Manhattan. Here are the big stars that have made Alpine their home:

Chris Rock, Margo Way
Chris Rock lives in Timberline Estates, which is located off of 9W, about one mile north of Closter Dock Road. Timberline Drive is the only way in and out of Timberline Estates, and if you follow it down the hill and turn right onto Margo Way, Chris Rock’s house will be the second on the left. It has a pink-hued exterior with several peaked roof lines and two turrets.

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Lil’ Kim, Timberline Drive
Lil’ Kim also lives in Timberline Estates, but her house is much easier to get to. She’s the first house on the right once you turn onto Timberline Drive from 9W. It’s the white ultra modern home with lots of windows.

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P. Diddy, Anderson Avenue
P. Diddy’s house is located on Anderson Avenue, right on the border of Closter and Alpine. His house is on the Alpine side…the side that ascends the hill. So don’t be confused by the smaller (yet still expensive) homes across the street. When you’re on Anderson Avenue heading north, P. Diddy’s house is located on the right directly after Buckingham Drive. It’s a sprawling brick mansion that’s sort of difficult to see due to it’s location on the hillside, but you can’t miss the flagpole.

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Stevie Wonder, Anderson Avenue
Stevie Wonder also lives on Anderson Avenue between Old Sawmill Road and Cambridge Way. If you’re on Anderson Avenue heading north and you pass Old Sawmill Road, you’ll notice a big peach-colored brick mansion on the right, and Stevie Wonder’s house is located directly next door. It’s an older brown contemporary home that’s set back from the road and sheltered by tree canopies, but you can still see it when you pass by.

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Wesley Snipes, Stone Tower Drive
Wesley Snipes lives in Rio Vista, Alpine’s premier housing community. The community itself is not gated, but most of the homes are protected by private security gates. If you’re on 9W heading north, turn left onto The Esplanade (look for the blinking light). As you drive down The Esplanade, you’ll notice a tall and mysterious edifice in front of you; this is Devil’s Tower, well known by the Weird New Jersey community. Continue around the tower and when the road Ts, turn left onto Stone Tower Drive. Wesley Snipes’ house will be directly on the right. It’s an ultra-modern white mansion that looks very bare, due to its lack of landscaping.

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Check out the Saddle River Map of the Stars for even more celebrity homes.

Running parallel along the eastern side of the New Jersey Turnpike, right where Route 80 begins is an outdoor lover’s oasis in-the-making. Here you will find Overpeck County Park, which encompasses 600 acres of land shared by Teaneck, Leonia, Ridgefield Park, and Palisades Park. Overpeck Park runs along the shores of the Overpeck Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River.

Overpeck is currently divided into four regions: Henry Hoebel Area, South Area, Palisades Park Area, and Ridgefield Park Area. The Henry Hoebel Area is located at the northern end of the park in Leonia, off Fort Lee Road. This section is home to a fitness field, a jogging path, four lighted tennis courts, and another path for cyclists and pedestrians. The South Area, also located off of Fort Lee Road, contains several picnic areas, a playground, a baseball field, a bike path, a running track, and volleyball and basketball courts. This area is also home to the Bergen Equestrian Center, which contains a riding arena and paddocks.

The Palisades Park Area is located on the eastern shore of the creek, at the end of Roosevelt Street directly off of Grand Avenue. This area contains several tennis courts and horseshoe pits. You will also notice the high school football stadium, several ball fields, and the town pool, all of which may be used through membership fees and permits. The Ridgefield Park Area, situated on the creek’s western shore, is located at the end of Challenger Road. It is home to two ball fields and two soccer fields. This area is also where the outdoor oasis that I first mentioned is being developed.

During the 1950s, the four towns donated land to the county in exchange for a promise that the county would convert the land into a glorious park…one that was to rival New York’s Central Park. However, only a small amount of acreage was converted into usable park land while most of the land was turned into a garbage dump. The landfill, located on the western shore in Ridgefield Park and Teaneck, was actively used for two decades until 1974 when the two towns sued the county. The county ordered that the landfill be capped, but instead the land sat deserted for three more decades. It wasn’t until March of this year that the plan became active again, thanks to the Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA). The county now has until September 30, 2009 to complete the project.

Once the landfill is capped with two to four feet of sediment and sand and the shorelines are cleaned up and stabilized, the county can finally start to develop the park…more than half a century after it was originally promised. But better late than never (I guess). Once completed, Bergen County residents will be able to enjoy an impressive park filled with basketball courts, ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts. There will be plenty of paths for bikers, joggers, and walkers as well as a playground, an amphitheater, and a wildlife refuge. There will even be a boat launch so visitors can enjoy the benefits that the creek has to offer.

But until then, we can witness a dump being converted from trash to treasure. I work on Challenger Road, and there’s a constant barrage of trucks coming in and out of the landfill, so it appears that the county is actually working hard to get this project completed before the court-ordered deadline in 2009. It’s astonishing that we humans produce so much trash…but our wasteful ways will hopefully be rectified with the completion of Overpeck County Park.

For more information on how the county is capping the landfill, read this article from The Record.

I found a taste of Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Israel in a little store-front restaurant in Ridgewood. Located on North Broad Street across from the railroad tracks, Mediterraneo embodies the true essence of – you guessed it – Mediterranean cuisine. I went there for dinner a few weeks ago with some close friends and the food was fresh and delicious, the ambience was vibrant, and the service was excellent.

The restaurant is very small…almost cramped (which would be my only complaint). There’s also patio seating in the front, but we opted for a table inside because you never know when a stray thunderstorm will roll through during the summer months. We did make a reservation, which I highly suggest. Our reservation was for 8:30 on a Saturday night, and the restaurant stayed packed until 10:30. So if you show up and put your name on the waiting list, you may not be eating until very late.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a smiling hostess and seated promptly. Like most of the restaurants in Ridgewood, Mediterraneo is a BYOB. It wouldn’t be a Mediterranean meal without a glass (or two or three) of red wine. Our bottle was opened before we could ask, which probably wasn’t a good idea because we were drinking and chatting away, barely paying attention to the menu. But our waitress was very patient, checking up on us every ten minutes or so to see if we were ready to order.

Thirty minutes later, we finally got to the menu, which has a large selection of salads and tapas as well as main-courses. We ordered a few tapas items and a salad to share amongst the table. First came out a hummus and tzatziki platter served with unlimited fresh, warm pita. The hummus was so tasty and the tzatziki was refreshingly cool and perfectly infused with garlic and dill.

While we were leisurely eating our first course of tapas, the salad was brought out. It consisted of incredibly fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese, and crispy romaine lettuce, all tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette. The portion was huge, and between the three of us, there was still some left over. Shortly after the salad was served, our third item came out – warmed Greek cheese. My friends and I are cheese fanatics, so this was the highlight of our meal. The cheese was goat based, but simpler in flavor and thicker in consistency. It was drizzled in honey and served in wedges. Needless to say, the cheese was demolished in under five minutes. And what meal would be complete without dessert? So we shared a vanilla-infused crème brulée topped with a caramel drizzle. That, too, was demolished ever so quickly.

After our fresh and tasty meal, we continued chatting while finishing our second bottle of wine. The waitress was very kind and didn’t bring us our check until we requested it. When I go out to eat, especially with friends, I try to forget about the prices and focus on enjoying good food that I didn’t cook. So I was absolutely floored when the bill was under $50 for the three of us. But after realizing what we had ordered, it made sense. I was just pleased to leave the restaurant with a full wallet after having eaten a delicious and memorable meal with great friends.

So the next time you’re craving fresh Mediterranean food, I highly recommend Mediterraneo. Be sure to make a reservation, and be prepared for a simply delicious meal.

Here is Mediterraneo’s contact information:

23 N Broad St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
(201) 447-0022

I love to shop, and Bergen County is a great place to drop a buck or two. Here is my current list of the top five shopping destinations in The BC. I’m sure I will issue a new list in the future, seeing as our malls and towns are forever changing, but these are the top five hot spots of the moment:

1. City Place, Edgewater

This outdoor promenade of shops and restaurants is the perfect place to visit on a warm summer day. Situated along the Hudson River, you’ll enjoy the New York City backdrop as well as the cool breezes off the water. There’s something for everyone here including Anthropology, Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Pier 1 Imports, and several other specialty shops and boutiques. And if you get hungry, try one of City Place’s five dining options including Panera Bread and Bergen County’s well known Baumgart’s Cafe.

2. Garden State Plaza, Paramus

As New Jersey’s largest shopping mall, Garden State Plaza is filled with almost 300 stores, specialty shops, and boutiques. It houses five department stores: Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney. There’s upscale shopping with boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors. If you’re looking to buy basics, check out J.Crew or Express or Abercrombie & Fitch. If you want something funky, peek into H&M or the brand new Kira Plastinina boutique. For bath and beauty products, visit Sephora or Aveda or C.O. Bigelow. And if you get hungry, choose from one of the mall’s 45 dining options. My personal favorites are California Pizza Kitchen, Grand Luxe Cafe, and Legal Sea Foods. And if you still have energy to spare after a long day of shopping, check out what’s playing at the brand new 16-screen AMC Theatre.

Garden State Plaza is a perfect rainy day adventure. Just don’t be surprised if you have trouble finding a good parking spot.

3. Miracle Mile, Ridgewood

With its beautiful tree-lined streets and its mix of tudor and classic colonial architectural styles, Ridgewood is truly the “Pleasantville” of Bergen County. The center of Ridgewood, situated along East Ridgewood Avenue between Broad Street and Maple Avenue, has been deemed the Miracle Mile…and it’s easy to understand why. This main drag is filled with a wide variety of boutiques and specialty shops. Women’s wear designer Yansi Fugel has her flagship store here. Across the street is Shoe Inn, which carries a great selection of moderate to expensive women’s shoes. And if you didn’t get your shoe fix from Shoe Inn, check out Just Our Shoes around the corner on North Walnut, with Bergen County’s premier selection of Mephistos.

If you’re shopping for your kitchen, bath, or home, stop in to the innovative and luxurious Waterworks or the more traditional Pierre Deux. Are you in the market for hand-crafted wood furniture? Checkout the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom, which anchors the Miracle Mile at the bottom of the hill (in the old Sealfons building). If you’re looking for basic apparel, there’s GAP, GAP Kids, Lucky Jeans, and Ann Taylor. Feeling crafty? Stop by the Bazaar Star Beadery where you can pick out your own beads and make your own necklace or bracelet. If you’re after the real bling, there are several jewelry stores lining the main drag including Paris Jewelers and Lenore Jewelers.

And if you build up an appetite while journeying through all of these great shops, there’s a huge selection of dining options, perhaps one of Ridgewood’s more well-known attributes. For a delicious light meal of Greek and Italian classics, try Mediterraneo on North Broad Street. Wild Ginger on Chestnut Street serves up some of the county’s best sushi. Winberie’s on Oak Street is perfect for American classics. If you’re craving caffeine, visit the Ridgewood Coffee Company, a town staple. There’s also a Starbucks for those who can’t part with their Caramel Macchiatos.

Ridgewood is ideal for a spring or autumn day, and a good parking spot isn’t too hard to find. Just be sure to bring a lot of quarters for the meter.

4. The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack

Located on Route 4 west, The Shops at Riverside is The BC’s swankiest shopping destination. Anchored by a large Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the mall houses over 80 high-end boutiques and shops including Burberry, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermes, Barneys Co-Op, and Tiffany & Co. But don’t worry…there are also more affordable options like GAP, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and Chicos. If you’re buying for your tots, the mall has several specialty children’s wear stores including Janie and Jack, La Petite Gaminerie, and Hanna Andersson. And did I forget to mention the huge two-floor Pottery Barn?

If you get hungry, you’re definitely in the right place. The mall has seven (soon to be eight) delicious sit-down restaurants to choose from. Stop by The Cheesecake Factory for their infamous huge-portioned meals, and try to save room for the cheesecake. Just be prepared to wait a while for a table. P.F. Chang’s serves up Chinese classics with a modern twist. If you’re in the mood for Italian, I highly recommend Maggiano’s. In fact, I highly recommend every restaurant at The Shops at Riverside. And if you do have to wait for a table, give your cell phone number to the hostess and continue your shopping adventures until your table is ready.

5. Tice’s Corner, Woodcliff Lake

Chances are you didn’t even know this shopping center existed. Located off Garden State Parkway exit 171 in Woodcliff Lake, Tice’s Corner has become a shopping hot spot for northern Bergen County residents. The open strip mall sits on the former site of Tice Farm and is home to such stores as Anthropology, J.Crew, Pottery Barn, Express, Talbots, and The Apple Store. There’s also a Panera Bread, which gets very busy around lunchtime.

Tice’s Corner is a great alternative to traveling down to one of the larger malls in Paramus. You can leisurely stroll from store to store or get in and get out as quickly as you’d like. It’s a perfect destination for a beautiful sunny day, and parking is very rarely a problem. Just beware during the holiday season…you’ll need a lot of patience dealing with the aggressive soccer moms and their monstrous SUVs.